The Hearn

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On a weekend in June I hosted a couch surfer from the UK named David. Hosting surfers always gives me a reason to go and discover the city. On the Sunday afternoon I took David to see some of the LuminaTO festival. This year the hub of the festival temporarily occupied “The Hearn“, a decommissioned generating station in Toronto’s Port Lands. We took the TTC as far as the distillery district and had beers and fish tacos at the Mill Street Brewery. We couldn’t find the shuttle bus that was supposed to come by there and so we ended up walking the rest of the way through what felt like no-mans land. Poor David had worn the wrong shoes and as we trudged along I secretly hoped that it would be worth our while.

It was! The space was amazing. The building was occupied by various temporary programs that complemented the various types of spaces that the building offers. Art installations occupied an area on the main floor that is enclosed by large concrete piers like a long, thick colonnade (that once supported large turbines); a series of prints occupied a long, airy mezzanine that extended the length of the enormous space (the building is a few football fields long and the prints were made directly on the brick walls). Off the mezzanine a restaurant occupied the small operations room that is full of knobs and switches. At the far end of the building an enormous disco ball hung and rotated from an existing overhead crane. The ball reflected dancing light across the space and could be discovered from up on the mezzanine and down below. A large full height space was home to a performance area and there was another space wrapped in black fabric that served as a theatre (unfortunately we did not get to see inside). Lastly there were smaller pavilions, some of which were made from shipping containers: A bar, a cafe, and a set of “situation rooms” that had a kind of virtual reality story-telling.

In general the building had an amazing depth and texture to it created by the layered structures, circuits and ducts that still hang in parts of the space. The only windows are on the two far sides that offer a hazy kind of light that only really touches the first layer of dense objects. We walked around, sat and enjoyed a beer, walked around some more when the building was more deserted, and then grabbed free coffee on our way out. This time we waited for the departure of the shuttle bus that was a classic yellow school bus (David was particular excited about this). It was cool because from our seat on the back of the school bus we saw the sun set over the city skyline. What a fun experience (or should I say very unique? ;)  )! Thanks goes to David for the last two photographs!

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